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Australian Chamber Music with Piano

Australian Chamber Music with Piano

Larry Sitsky
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Australian Chamber Music with Piano
    Book Description:

    This book represents the first critical survey of a section of a rich Australian corpus of chamber music. The author has included various instrumental combinations with piano as well as vocal music with piano. The survey is chronological, as well as by composer. An appendix to the work provides source material for future research into this area. The research has concentrated on progressive modernist music by Australian composers. The commentary utilises the author's rich experience as composer, pianist and educator.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-41-0
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Part 1: The First Generation

    • 1. Composers of Their Time: Early modernists and neo-classicists
      (pp. 3-20)

      Roy Agnew was a composer for the piano; all of his output is directed towards it. There was either no opportunity or no interest in writing chamber music. He did, however, compose about 20 songs and published roughly half of them. There is also a set of two Songs Without Words for voice and clarinet. The totality of the songs is now available through the Keys Press, so it is worth listing all of them for the record in the hope that some attention can be drawn to them; it is music by one of our finest composers.

      1. ′Beloved Stoop...

    • 2. Composers Looking Back: Late romantics and the nineteenth-century legacy
      (pp. 21-44)

      If one reads A Distant Music: The life & times of Alfred Hill 1870–1960, by John Mansfield Thomson, one comes away with a sad realisation. The book certainly tells the story of the man and paints a likeable portrait of someone who was energetic and idealistic, and who produced vast quantities of music. But what of the music itself? Almost nothing is said about it. The fact is that, although everyone seems to acknowledge Alfred Hill as an important figure in Australia′s early music, there is little of it heard and little has been written about it. It certainly would...

    • 3. Phyllis Campbell (1891–1974)
      (pp. 45-52)
      Fiona Fraser

      Phyllis Campbell is a very interesting composer whose music has only come to light since the first volume on piano music. Campbell was an active member of Sydney′s Theosophical Society who was clearly influenced by their mystical ideas about music. Perhaps because of this, she had trouble obtaining recognition outside theosophical circles in her own lifetime.

      Many theosophists were interested in the spiritual significance of sound vibrations and overtones, believing that, like the swirl of colours in an abstract painting, certain sound combinations could transport an audience to a corresponding cosmic plane of enlightenment. It is no accident that Scriabin′s...

  6. Part 2: The Second Generation

    • 4. Post–1945 Modernism Arrives in Australia
      (pp. 55-100)

      Some years after writing Australian Piano Music of the Twentieth Century, I find myself in a quandary yet again, faced with the problem of writing about Felix Werder.

      Available listings of his output include many early works, many written after the young composer came to Australia. These works now seem to be unavailable. A few years ago, I rang Felix and asked him about these works, which I wanted to look at, as a composer′s first efforts often pinpoint key tendencies in their artistic stance. Felix said to me, with some passion, that all these early works had been burnt,...

    • 5. Retrospective Composers
      (pp. 101-122)

      Miriam Hyde passed away between my last book on Australian piano music and the writing of this one. She remained active to the very end, keeping up a lively correspondence as well as playing the piano in public and composing. When I last wrote about her, it was in some senses easier, as I was describing her own instrument and the various works she composed for it, both on a concert level and many pieces used for teaching. In chamber music, her output is smaller and the role of the piano is quite different. She still produced voluminously, but it...

    • 6. Pluralism
      (pp. 123-136)

      James Penberthy lived a long and active life; he was involved with a huge spectrum of genres and musical forces and his biography is long overdue. Jim was very outspoken and various Establishment places and figures had trouble coping with him and his honesty. For a while, he also wrote newspaper columns and music criticisms, so, in parallel with the Establishment′s unease in its dealings with Jim, there was probably a little fear that he might say uncomfortable things in a very public way. Ultimately, it is his music that has to be the final arbiter of what we think...

    • 7. Sitsky′s Chamber Music
      (pp. 137-158)
      Edward Neeman

      Larry Sitsky′s sound world is characterised (in his own words) by the ′intense expressionistic style, the improvisatory aspects, the ejaculatory phrases, the abrupt changes of dynamics with its associate expressiveness′.¹ As a pioneer of modernist music in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, Sitsky is often—and quite rightly—grouped with his fellow travellers from the same period, composers such as Richard Meale and Don Banks who had grasped the importance of the earth-shaking changes taking place in American and European musical circles and fought against the odds to foment a similar re-evaluation of the power and relevance of music...

  7. Part 3: The Third Generation

    • 8. The Next Wave of Modernism
      (pp. 161-182)

      Ann Ghandar is a fine pianist, so, in her compositions, the piano parts tend to be assertive and vital to the musical discourse. Autumn Chimes (1995) is probably best described by the composer herself:

      Autumn Chimes was written in the autumn, and it uses a selection of scales from garden chimes on display in a shop in Federation Square, Canberra. I used different combinations of the five instruments (flute, oboe, violin, cello and piano) only using all of them in the last piece, and making two of the pieces for a solo instrument (flute, piano). Two of the five pieces...

    • 9. Maximalism
      (pp. 183-186)

      Opening the scores of Chris Dench′s Atsiluth (1991) and E(i)ther (2003) confirmed that, for Dench, the heyday of this type of what I earlier termed ′maximalism′ is not over. He has elected not to shift from his stated position of many years. The appearance of a Dench score is unmistakable in its exquisite calligraphy, with all the meticulously ruled stems, elegant numerals and thick bar lines. I find Chris′s scores incredibly difficult to read, as the long stems seem far away from their note heads, and there is often a little of the stem line cutting through the note head...

    • 10. Pluralism
      (pp. 187-222)

      Bruce Cale, a well-known name in jazz circles, is present here due to a single work: his Sonatina for Trumpet & Piano Op. 76 (1993). The composer says ′this piece was composed with the student musician in mind. This work is as demanding for a professional musician to perform excellently.′ He is certainly not wrong there. Cale writes in what appears to be a quite complex style, partly, I suspect, because he attempts to notate the kind of offbeat rubato that is bread and butter to a jazz performer, but looks difficult on paper. The issue is further complicated by Cale′s...

  8. Part 4: The Fourth Generation

    • 11. The Fourth Generation
      (pp. 225-250)

      This book does not include ′educational′ music, so named. This is not out of a sense of feeling superior to it, nor is there any implied suggestion that music written for children need be in any artistic way inferior to concert music; not at all. The decision was made simply to make the volume of material to be processed for this book a manageable size. But, some of the music falls into the cracks, as it were. Stephen Leek (who studied with me) is an example of one such composer. He clearly does not write specifically for the concert platform,...

  9. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 251-254)

    This is my second book on an aspect of Australian music. The previous book stopped at the end of the twentieth century, and concentrated on music for solo piano. The present book pushes the chronology up to the year 2010 and focuses on the piano as a member of a chamber music ensemble. In both cases, I have drawn upon my personal career and interests as a composer and pianist, as well as somebody who cares passionately about the future of what we might loosely label ′art music′ produced in this country. My perspective, therefore, is of one who has...

  10. Appendix
    (pp. 255-322)